Russia Renationalizes Aerospace Industry

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin on Wednesday announced the complete re-nationalization of the Russian aerospace industry, which was partly privatized after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991:

The United Rocket and Space Corporation, to be formed as a joint-stock company, will contain all organizations in the aerospace industry, with the exception of a few defense companies, he said. Plans for the restructuring were first announced in July.

Consolidation will help the government pursue a “unified technical policy” in the space sector as well as remove current redundancies and avoid potential ones, Rogozin said, adding that the new corporation would absorb 33 space organizations, including 16 enterprises.

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Failure Prone Zenit Launch Vehicle Successfully Returns to Flight

zenit3slb
Land Launch Zenit booster

The problem-plagued Zenit launch vehicle returned to flight on Saturday with the successful launch of the Israeli Amos-4 communications satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The 3.5-ton satellite, which was built by Israel Aerospace Industries for Israeli operator Spacecom, will deliver Ka- and Ka-band communications to the portions of the Middle East, Russia and south and east Asia.

This is the first successful flight of the rocket since the failure of a Sea Launch Zenit-3SL on Feb. 1. The launch vehicle crashed into the Pacific Ocean shortly after take-off when its first stage failed, taking the Intelsat 27 satellite down with it.

The Zenit launch vehicle, which has a success rate of just over 85 percent, was originally intended for multiple uses. Four Zenits were attached to the core of the giant Energia launch system designed to lift the Buran space shuttle into orbit. Zenits were also designed to fly separately as a replacement for the Soyuz booster for manned flights and as a satellite launcher.

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Energia Pledges ‘Unfailing Commitment” to Failure-Prone Sea Launch

sea_launch_zenitMOSCOW, Russia and BERN, Switzerland – February 6, 2013 (Sea Launch PR) – S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation “Energia” (“RSC Energia”) spoke out today about its unfailing commitment to the long-term success of the Sea Launch program following the launch failure of Intelsat 27 spacecraft on February 1, 2013. RSC Energia has been the leader and the operator of the Sea Launch program since 2010.

In a statement, the General Designer and the President of RSC Energia, Vitaly Lopota said:

“We profoundly regret about the last week’s loss of the Intelsat 27 spacecraft. Many people worked hard to build the spacecraft, the launch vehicle and support the launch campaign. As we have been working in the space industry for over 65 years we continuously strive for perfection and reliability in everything that we attempt, but sometimes we fall short. The ocean-based launch system, Zenit launch vehicle and upper stage Block DM are a trusted means of payload delivery which combines the best in rocket-building technology and processes of recent decades. The launch failure is being investigated and analyzed. Its findings will be announced in the near future.”

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Russia Plays Follow the Leader on Heavy-Lift Vehicles

Buran shuttle and Energia rocket.
Buran shuttle and Energia rocket.

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

With America (or, at least its esteemed Congress, gentlemen engineers all) determined to build the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) regardless of the cost to the national treasury or the damage done to far more pressing priorities (like getting our astronauts back into orbit on U.S. vehicles), the Russians have begun dusting off old proposals for super boosters of their own.

In this case, the Russian need to emulate the Americans is somewhat less blatant than the follow-the-leader cloning process that resulted Soviet Union’s ill-fated, single flight Buran space shuttle of the 1980’s. However, it does involves much of the same launch vehicle hardware, which should set off plenty of alarm bells right there.

Yes, the Soviet Empire may have died and, with it, the mighty space program that had once sent shudders of fear through the West. But, the individual initiatives of that era continue to live on, although in somewhat altered states and, unfortunately, possessing many of the same problems.

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Energia Begins Work on OKA-T Free Flying Experiments Module

OKA-T spacecraft (Credit: RSC Energia)
OKA-T spacecraft (Credit: RSC Energia)

MOSCOW (Energia PR) — S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia embarked on the activities under the project of spacecraft OKA-T serviced on the International Space Station (ISS). Works are underway on development effort “OKA-T-ISS” in the Preliminary Design stage in accordance with the Federal Space Agency contract. Works completion date for the Preliminary Design stage is November 2013.

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America’s Rocket Renaissance

rutan_talkBy Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

During recent public talks, Scaled Composites Founder Burt Rutan has bemoaned the lack of recent rocket development in the United States. After the initial burst of creativity in the 1950’s and 1960’s, decades went by with very few new rockets being developed. He has also pointed to Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipTwo, SpaceX’s Dragon and Stratolaunch Systems air-launch project (which he worked on for 20 years) as the only serious developments in the field at present.

My first thought was: Burt’s wrong. There’s a lot more going on than just that. Including developments just down the flight line in Mojave that he somehow fails to mention. And my second thought was: well, just how wrong is Burt, exactly?

A lot, it turns out.

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Energia Says “Nyet” to Consolidated Rocket Holding Company Proposal

Soyuz_launchThe Russian government’s proposal to consolidate the nation’s rocket industry to deal with serious quality control problems in its space industry is getting a decidedly chilly reception:

Russian space rocket corporation Energia head Vitaly Lopota on Wednesday rejected as a “non-market” measure the idea of establishing an engine holding company in the domestic space industry.

“This proposal would completely eliminate the competitive environment in the country,” Lopota said….

Russian Space Agency Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin had previously said Russia planned to create a single holding company for booster rocket production to integrate the country’s leading space vehicle producers Khrunichev and TsSKB Progress, and also an engine-building sub-holding company to include engine makers Energomash, the Khimavtomatiki design bureau, the Voronezh mechanical works, Proton PM and other firms.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered the government in summer to work out a plan to improve Russia’s space industry organizations, after a string of mishaps that he said have compromised Russia’s image as a leading space power.

Read the full story.

Sea Launch Rocket Cleared in Launch Anomaly Investigation

sea_launch_zenitPALO ALTO, California and BERN, Switzerland– Dec. 19, 2012 (Sea Launch-SS/L PR) – Space Systems/Loral (SSL) and Sea Launch AG (Sea Launch) today announced that the Independent Oversight Board (IOB) formed to investigate the solar array deployment anomaly on a satellite launched in the spring of 2012 has successfully reached a unanimous conclusion.

The IOB, which was comprised of three highly regarded industry experts, worked with a comprehensive team of engineers from both SSL and Sea Launch to conduct an exhaustive investigation of data from the launch vehicle, the spacecraft, and interactions between the two.  Extensive data provided by Sea Launch were instrumental in achieving the findings which led to the investigation’s positive conclusion.

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Khrunichev Completes Building MLM for ISS

Multifunctional Laboratory Module (Credit: Khrunichev)

MOSCOW (Khunichev/Roscosmos PR) — Khrunichev has completed the fabrication and assembly of the flight product multifunctional Laboratory Module (MLM) for the International Space Station (ISS).

During the night of December 6-7, the module was sent to the RSC Energia for further electrical testing of the on-board systems.

The MLM provides the following functions for the Russian segment of the ISS:

  • Provide docking ports for transport ships and research units (transport manned spacecraft “Soyuz-TMA” and cargo spacecraft “Progress M” and their modifications) and research modules in automatic mode or in manual docking;
  • Transit fuel THC “Progress” in the tanks of the SM and FGB;
  • Management of ISS via bank with its engine;
  • Provision of storage capacity;
  • Maintain partial life-support functions;
  • Organize the European arm and its functioning;
  • Placement and operation of scientific equipment.

Khrunichev is responsible for MLM’s hull, propulsion, thermal control system and fire detection and suppression system. Khrunichev will launch the module aboard its Proton rocket.

Skolkovo Fund, Roscosmos to Cooperate on Space Tech

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Roscosmos and the Skolkovo Fund will work together on developing advanced space and telecommunications technologies as part of the space agency’s long-range development plan that extends out to 2030 and beyond, Russian media report.

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Khrunichev DG: Inaugural Angara Launches on Schedule for 2013*

The Angara rocket family. (Credit: Allocer)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Russia’s new Angara rocket family, which began development after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, will finally fly next year after two decades of effort. Providing, of course, that work is completed in time on the rocket’s launch facility and other ground infrastructure at Plesetsk.

That’s the word from Vladimir Nesterov, the Director General of the Khrunichev company that is building Angara. He discussed the status of the new rocket in a recent interview with the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

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Extraordinary Photos From Inside Russia’s Energomash Rocket Plant

Exterior view of Energomash engine test facility. (Credit: Lana Sator)

Russian blogger Lana Sator has posted an album of extraordinary photos  taken inside of the Energomash rocket plant in Moscow — shots she took during five secret, nocturnal visits to the facility with her friends over several months. She says that they sneaked in through a gap in the fence and encountered not a single security guard as they wandered through the plant at will.

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Russia Reprioritizes Space Program

Last week, Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin laid out his plan to shift the focus of Russia’s space program away from human spaceflight toward a more balanced effort that also emphasized Earth observation, communications and planetary exploration. The moves also included tightening state control over a key Russian rocket builder.

The most dramatic move is the cancellation of Russia’s large Rus-M rocket, which Energia was building to replace the venerable Soyuz booster. Rus-M was intended to carry the nation’s new six-person crew vehicle from the Vostochny spaceport. However, the effort was widely rumored to be running badly behind schedule and unlikely  to meet deadlines of an initial test flight in 2015 and human flights in 2018.

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Sea Launch Back in Action With Successful Launch

Sea Launch is back after a two-year hiatus after a Zeni-3SL rocket launched the ATLANTIC BIRD™ 7 broadcast satellite into orbit from the ocean-based Odyssey Launch Platform. One hour and seven minutes after launch from the equatorial location, a Block DM-SL upper stage fired to send the Eutelsat satellite into an equatorial transfer orbit. Officials report the launch went as planned and that the satellite is performing as expected.

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Energia to Medvedev: Send More Rubles!

It looks like NASA isn’t the only space agency being asked to do too much with too little. Listen to what Energia Corporation President Vitaly Lopota told ITAR-TASS the other day about funding for the Soyuz replacement spacecraft:

“The dynamics of funding of the new spaceship leaves much to be desired,” he said, noting that he did not mean this year’s funding. “So far, the federal program does not have the dynamics needed to ensure our absolute fulfillment of the presidential ordinance,” he said.

Lopota and Charlie Bolden have much to commiserate about.